It may have taken me a month to put this together, mainly because it's been such a hectic month, but I have been wanting to share the story of a Tuscan retreat since I was there. But I have kept coming back to the photos I took and so, here they are.
I was invited as a guest to a women's wellness retreat being held in a beautiful Tuscan villa (anyone who knows me well knows that Tuscany has been on my bucket list for a very long time) and of course, after the usual family juggling, I was keen to go along and see where the event took me.
The retreat was hosted by Emma Elice-Flint of Emma's Nutrition. There were only a relatively small number of us which, as it turned out, was a lovely thing as it helped the whole retreat feel more intimate somehow. We gathered for meals which Emma prepared, we watched and learned in the villa's kitchen and there was plenty of opportunity to chat about food and nutrition.
I have had a funny relationship with food for as long as I can remember. I have IBS, but what exactly triggers it has always been something of a mystery. Yes there are some foods I know will set it off, with those containing gluten being the biggest culprit, but my stomach is also sensitive to tiredness and stress which means I have never really found a way to avoid bouts of IBS. So I was curious to see if Emma would have any advice for me.
Not entirely relevant to the retreat, but as a photographer, one thing I was inspired by was the light. We had mixed weather while we were there, yet the light was always beautiful. From the low light early in the morning to the most glorious of sunsets, the entire event was photogenic!
ABOUT THE RETREAT
Each day began with a choice of yoga or a walk through the land surrounding the villa. I chose the hike every day, the route of which was varied, as I love to explore the area around any location I visit.
Breakfast followed, prepared by Emma. From omelettes to baked eggs to flapjacks, each filled with local produce and utterly delicious. Emma is very generous with her expertise and is always happy to pause and answer a question or several. Every reply was knowledgable, helpful and full of suggestions given in a practical and achievable way.
Lunch and dinner followed a similar pattern, Emma's meals are delicious and healthy. I found her enthusiasm for food and the preparation of meals so inspiring.
We were treated to olive oil tasting (so much to learn, who knew?! And what makes extra virgin olive oil extra virgin? Well that's an interesting one... ) and a wine tasting. There is a beautiful outdoor swimming pool and the retreat took such a gentle pace, it allowed plenty of time for relaxing too.
While I was there I even read half of a book I have been meaning to read for a few years which is saying a lot!
LA TORRE ALLE TOLFE
The retreat took place at La Torre alle Tolfe just outside of Siena, Tuscany. Both the villa and the surrounding area are utterly beautiful, and exactly what I would have hoped for when visiting Tuscany.
Owners Mania and Mark are passionate about the location and all that Tuscany has to offer. Mania's family have owned the property since the 1950's and she took us on tours of the tower - the origins of which can be traced back to the 8th century - and the cellars. At La Torre alle Tolfe they make their own wine (amongst other things) and a look at their process was fascinating!
From vineyards, to olive groves via a beautiful outdoor pool, there is a lot going on here. With views that invite you to stop and observe a while too. And if wild flowers are your thing, I can tell you there were plenty! My favourite being the alliums, something I have never seen growing in the wild at home.
Of course, staying within sight of Siena, a few hours to visit the city was called for.
It must have been quite a feat to build the city as it sits on a pretty steep hill (or three) with towering buildings and tiny alleys. Thinking about the logistics of construction is confounding enough!
It is definitely worth a visit. Twice a year they hold a horse race in the main square (Piazza del campo) which - although it wasn't while we were there - must be quite a sight as the square is not really that big.
We wandered the streets and soaked in the atmosphere. I am always drawn to washing hung on the facades, it seems like such a contrast to me, to hang ones intimates out for the world to see! I like the colour coordinated lines the most...
Anyway, if laundry is not your thing, there is always plenty of gelato instead...
The Duomo of Siena is such a striking building too, black and white marble with a hint of pink. Given the time I would have loved to see inside it...
I had no preconceived ideas about this retreat. Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea what to expect but I brought home a lot of food for thought (excuse the pun) and have finally started to work out my diet. A little. It's going to be a long process.
For anyone who is interested, I have since been following a low FODMAP plan and am currently introducing foods one at a time to try and work out exactly what triggers my IBS...
NEXT YEARS TUSCAN RETREAT
Emma is returning to La Torre alle Tolfe next year to host another retreat. If you would be interested in attending you can find more information here.
My place at this retreat was gifted with no obligation to share, but it was such a wonderful experience that I wanted to write about it here.
I would thoroughly recommend Emma's retreat.